Traditional orchards are a much loved part of our British heritage and countryside. They generally consist of large trees grown on vigorous rootstocks planted at low densities. Often occupying the same piece of land for centuries, and managed without chemical input, these sites are hotspots for biodiversity and have been shown to provide a refuge for over 1800 species spanning the plant, fungi and animal kingdoms.
In addition to the well-known apple orchard, plums, pears, damsons, cherries and quince are all grown in orchards, and cobnuts (a type of cultivated hazel) are grown in a type of orchard called a plat.
The area of orchard habitat across England has declined by more than 60% since the 1950’s. This is due neglect, intensification of agriculture and pressure from land development. Supermarkets have long been importing cheap fruit from overseas which has led to orchard habitats becoming economically unviable and increasingly rare.
The trees of Long Mead Orchard come from Scott’s nurseries which was established in the 18th century and recently closed. For most of the 19th and 20th century, they were among the most famous orchardists in Britain. Their catalogue was widely sought after and considered a work of art. (See the PDF below for the history of Scotts Nursery).
Our trees are largely old English varieties of apple and pear, including the Flower of Kent, (grafted from the original tree) which led Isaac Newton to establish the laws of gravity. And Court Pendu Plat, which was supposed to have come to Britain with the Romans.
Eynsham was once famous for its apple growing. The Wastie Family bred nationally famous apples until the late 20th century. You can read about them here. A few trees remain of their old orchard from where comes a whole list of 20th century local apples, including the Eynsham Dumpling, Eynsham Challenger, Jennifer Wastie, Jennifer, Oxford Yeoman and Old Fred. It is now beneath the A40. But we have re-introduced them into Long Mead Orchard.
FIND THE STORIES OF OUR ORCHARD TREES
I couldn't resist getting out of my car on the busy A34 to capture delights of this apple tree. Note the "owl" hole.